Like U.S., India Faces Host of Tech Talent Challenges

A skills shortage and an ever-changing technological landscape mean both India and U.S.-based tech companies see similar hurdles to talent acquisition.
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The United States’ Silicon Valley, near San Francisco, is often heralded as the world’s technology hub, but it’s not alone. With the globalization of the workforce and every industry requiring tech talent today, competition is rife among companies to get the right people in the right roles. New technologies emerge, requiring companies around the world to jump this additional talent hurdle, find the right talent and take advantage of virtual reality, artificial intelligence and other emerging innovations.
India is commonly known as an area for outsourcing tech support, but the country’s talent has much more to offer in its $150 billion technology sector, according to Quartz. India is the second most-populated country in the world after China, according to the CIA’s “The World Factbook.” Businesses should take note of this talent market, also because Indian talent makes up an important part of America’s tech sector.

Just like in the U.S., Indian businesses struggle to keep up with the demands of modern technology, and their talent must have a variety of skills to stay competitive in this crowded market.

India Tech Talent

Puneet Bhirani, chief people and administrative officer at Mphasis, an IT services company based in Bangalore, India.

To learn more about the challenges and successes surrounding India’s tech talent, Talent Economy conducted an email interview with Puneet Bhirani, chief people and administrative officer at Mphasis, an IT services company based in Bangalore, India. Edited excerpts follow.

Tell us about the current state of talent in India’s technology sector. What is expected for its future?

The hunt for emerging talent is becoming very interesting. On the one hand, we have certain skills available in abundance, and on the other, digital skill sets are in huge demand and at a premium. A recent CEO survey listed “speed of technological change” and “availability of key skills” as two of the top five concerns that CEOs are facing today.

We look for talent who have experience in digital, cloud, automation and robotics, IoT [Internet of Things], AI, cognitive computing, virtual, augmented reality, etc. — all of these critical skill sets are playing an increasing role in our business strategy, and therefore our talent strategy.

As this landscape evolves, organizations will need to look at finding new ways by which they can access new talent. For example, crowdsourcing work to freelancers and tie-ups with startups may very well become an effective way of driving innovation while providing value to customers in the times ahead.

What skills do you most seek but have trouble finding in India’s current talent pool. How do you plan to overcome these challenges?

We are seeing an increase in demand for skills in the areas of cloud and automation, as well as more technologically advanced skill sets in AngularJS, DevOps, Pega, Electronic Data Interchange, automation testing, Selenium testing, Solaris and mainframe. The main challenge we face is that our recent hires are not properly trained for the current requirements of the industry.

One way of addressing this is we look at strengthening our training focus with the entry-level employees to make them industry-ready — our emphasis is on developing internal capabilities. We work with our employees to chart a path for growth, to ensure they have the necessary training skills that will prepare them for the next wave of change.

We also look for talent who has a wide range of skill sets — our talent acquisition team no longer looks at recruiting someone with just the basic set of core skills. This is very important for us because it adds an overall value to our customers. We want to ensure that we can create a strong supply chain of talent internally, so that they can receive continual training.

In addition to technical skills, there’s a new demand that requires both behavioral and creative skills. Design thinking is a way to prepare our talent to deliver in multifunctional groups. Accordingly, our talent management strategies also need to change.

What are some long-term concerns about India’s talent landscape? How are you preparing to overcome them?

With an increase in automation, low-skill jobs will decrease. So, the talent of the future is one of specialization, whether it’s in terms of technology or industry expertise. This means that traditional modes of recruitment and engagement will no longer work to attract talent. Digital and social hiring will be a preferred mode, which we will continue to do. The use of data analytics to predict candidate engagement and readiness can also help us search for the right kind of talent.

Also, with an increase in millennials in the workforce, building an integrated talent management ecosystem that provides higher mobility and flexibility is critical. We are already evaluating our talent strategies to make them more relevant to our workforce. Since technology is always changing and evolving, there is a higher priority on internal training skills. Therefore, there needs to be an increased investment in R&D and skill development for employees.

We have seen that networking and hiring employees through the referral channel has been very successful, as there’s been a higher engagement of these employees. This helps our employees build stronger connections within the organization.

How should business leaders in other countries position themselves to do business in Indian markets?

I think over the last few years, business leaders have changed their perception of India. As a result, they do not come to India for labor arbitrage alone. India has to be competitive and provide solutions that are better than any other country, since we are competing with countries such as China, Philippines, etc. Business leaders should look at India to deliver innovative solutions at a low price point, as value engineering is in our DNA. We excel at evolving solutions to ambiguous problems.

Lauren Dixon is an associate editor at Talent Economy. To comment, email